The Dowdeswell Osprey 10th – 15th April 2012

On Tuesday the 10th of April the phone rang and I was surprised to see it was Arthur Ball. Before picking up the phone I suspected a big bird must be on the patch at Dowdeswell Reservoir and I wasn’t wrong. Indeed Arthur had spotted a mega bird. An Osprey! I was gutted not to be able to head straight there and the bird was soon reported to have drifted away. A chance gone it seemed.

After a miserable day and thinking we had missed out, Greg and I went to look over the reservoir at around 3.45 despite the pouring rain. We had a good look and scanned possible trees it could be sat in but no luck. With dwindling hopes, it was whilst sheltering under a tree when Greg amazingly glimpsed the Osprey heading down the lake towards us.  It was flying in the most awful rain and as we ran from under the tree it soon headed off over the trees. It was still here and although soaked to the bone we were buzzing with excitement and knew we had to stay to see it again!!

We waited for a while on the causeway and after the weather cleared up the Osprey appeared again giving some fantastic views. It showed very well circling the reservoir until dusk and headed back towards Lineover wood as light was fading. What a magnificent bird and such a treat on the patch!

Needless to say we got to Dowdeswell the following morning with high hopes and within 5 minutes of being there the bird flew out over the reservoir flying up and down the water again before going into the woods. As the sun came up it appeared and circled directly over our heads in fantastic light before heading off over Lineover. A magic moment! How long is the bird going to stay and will it fish here?

Over the coming days it became apparent that the bird was commuting between Dowdeswell where it liked to roost and another water where it enjoyed more success feeding. We looked for the Osprey whenever possible and I spent time trying to solve the mystery of where it was going.

Originally Witcombe seemed the obvious place but with three visits and no sightings it appeared it may be using Colesbourne or Cowley waters. After failing to find the Opsrey hunting and wondering just where it was going when not at Dowdeswell it was finally located on Friday, indeed diving for fish at Witcombe after all.

As soon as I could I went to try and see it but with no luck returned to Dowdeswell. This bird was really getting in my head now! As I arrived back at Dowdeswell I decided to scan the water from a field opposite and right on cue the bird drifted over my head and I watched on as the Osprey hovered and plunged into the water. A brilliant sight but unfortunately it didn’t catch.

After many visits and sightings it was apparent that the bird was roosting on the Lineover side and flying into Dowdeswell wood very early in the morning. When it had warmed up it flew off to feed often checking the water here first. The bird regularly went between Dowdeswell and Witcome multiple times and on the Sunday, thanks to feedback from other observers, it went between Witcombe and Dowdeswell on three different occasions before returning to roost! Why it did this is a mystery, it was even seen carrying a fish out of sight towards Dowdeswell. Why not stay near the water with the easy fishing?

After many brilliant sightings Saturday evening provided the true highlight for me. Terry Fenton and I had been in contact to keep up with the bird and after being sat for two hours at Dowdeswell Terry called to say the Osprey had just left Witcombe! The next two minutes were full of anticipation and after getting in position, right on cue the bird drifted in just minutes later! A very special moment indeed, knowing that I was about to get stunning views of an Osprey on a reservoir I have watched for many years often imagining seeing this special bird. It spent a full 20 minutes flying around the water often hovering overhead. Simply stunning. This was to be my last view of this magnificent bird and it headed to the fields next to Lineover, never to be seen again.

I decided that this bird, which had a chunk missing from primary feathers on its right wing, was a young female which had no nest or mate to return to further north. It saw Dowdeswell as a potential territory with suitable habitat and this was the reason for the daily commute and length of stay. After waiting for 6 days with no sign of another bird it finally decided to push on to find a mate and breed.

It was a real privilege to watch this bird and I hope it is allowed to make its epic journey for many years. Maybe one day it will grace the Dowdeswell waters once more.